Friday, September 25, 2009
The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
To be released on October 6, 2009, by Random House Children's!
James Dashner's The Maze Runner felt like an enjoyable collage of all the reasons I like dystopic novels so dang much. It was a Farenheit 451 meets Ender's Game meets 1984 meets Lost meets Lord of the Flies meets City of Ember meets Little Women (okay, maybe not so much Little Women, but a guy can dream, can't he?).
Young Thomas finds himself with no memory of himself or where he came from--only that he's been dumped out of a box onto the hard ground and a bunch of kids are looking at him like he's their new leader (enter Lord of the Flies). He's inducted into their survivalist society and is told that he can hang out in their digs and all, but he must never venture out of the big, scary doors, lest bad things happen. And they must type in a code every twelve hours into a computer with a DOS-like screen, otherwise more bad things will happen (okay, this last really doesn't happen in this way, but take my word for it . . . Lost is written all over this with permanent marker; I keep expecting Hugo to come out of one of the shacks with a jar of peanut butter or something).
So these marooned manchildren have a society going on, but everything goes hog-wild the day after Thomas comes when a GIRL (gasps, shudders, cootie-repellent spraying) comes hopping out of the box and tells them the end is near. Well, of course the end is near, guys. Whenever a girl pops out of a box and starts ordering you around, run for the HILLS! CUT YOUR LOSSES! ALL IS LOST!
So is that teasy enough without giving out any juicy spoilers?
The creatures working against the Lords of Flies and such are the Grievers: a combination of your friendly neighborhood mechanical bloodhound (enter Farenheit 451) enmeshed with a big ball of gelatinous, green goo that must slow them down some, since they're not as fast and wily as those friendly neighborhood mechanical bloodhounds. But don't stop pouring on the fear, because these grievers have needles and mechanical grindy things that will tear and rend. ACK!
Thomas is one of those characters who is smart and save-the-day-heroic but he downplays his abilities with false humility so that he can get along with the rest of the guys (enter Ender's Game). He and Teresa have interactions that are fairly surface level, and I'm hoping their relationship is more extensively developed in the sequels. A great framework is set up for expanding this as well as the relationships between all the guys, including Winston (enter 1984), Minho, Alby, Chuck, Newt (enter Amphibians), Gally, Frypan, and all the other Lost Boys.
Each of the Lost Boys has a job to fulfill in this dystopian existence (enter City of Ember): some butcher animals (which are delivered by the Box), others are runners, who explore the land outside the gates in the great maze. Dashner gives some great insights into what children act like when forced to be adults, grown-up far too early in order to simply survive.
Listen. If I were to recommend any book to read this fall, it would be Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson's first book of a two-part final 12th book of the Wheel of Time, The Gathering Storm. If you can make it through that Leviathan of a book and still have the energy to read more, then check out James Dashner's well-written, engaging, Lord-of-the-flies-from-the-seat-of-your-pants The Maze Runner. You'll love it!
The Maze Runner, by James Dashner. October 6, 2009. Random House Children's. 384 pp. $12.74 (PB--discounted online at B&N).